RECIPE: The Legendary Four Thieves Vinegar

RECIPE: The Legendary Four Thieves Vinegar
I can’t remember where exactly I first discovered Four Thieves vinegar, but I was intrigued by its use in history and it’s legendary story. Myth has it that a group of thieves during the European outbreak of the black plague set out to rob the dead and the sick in Marseille. When they were caught, they offered to exchange their secret recipe, which had allowed them to commit the robberies without catching the disease, in exchange for leniency. Another version says that the thieves had already been caught before the outbreak and their sentence had been to bury dead plague victims; to survive this punishment, they created the vinegar.

Recipes for this legendary concoction are as numerous as the stories. The following vinegar recipe hung in the Museum of Paris in 1937, and is said to have been an original copy of the recipe posted on the walls of Marseilles during an episode of the plague:

Take three pints of strong white wine vinegar, add a handful of each of wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram and sage, fifty cloves, two ounces of campanula roots, two ounces of angelic, rosemary and horehound and three large measures of champhor. Place the mixture in a container for fifteen days, strain and express then bottle. Use by rubbing it on the hands, ears and temples from time to time when approaching a plague victim. [Source]

Plausible reasons for not contracting the Plague was that the herbal concoction contained natural flea repellents. Since the flea is the carrier for the Plague bacillus, Yersinia pestis. Wormwood has properties similar to cedar as an insect repellent, as all aromatics like sage, cloves, camphor, rosemary, campanula, etc. Meadowsweet, although known to contain salicyclic acid, it is mainly used to mask odors, like decomposing bodies.

Modern day versions of four thieves vinegar include various herbs that typically include sage, lavender, thyme, and rosemary, along with garlic. Additional herbs sometimes include rue, mint, and wormwood. It has become traditional to use four herbs in the recipe—one for each thief, though earlier recipes often have a dozen herbs or more. It is still sold in Provence. In Italy a mixture called “seven thieves vinegar” is sold as a smelling salt, though its ingredients appear to be the same as in four thieves mixtures.

RECIPE: The Legendary Four Thieves Vinegar

The Legendary Four Thieves Vinegar
 
One of the main reasons I wanted to make this vinegar is because I have all of the following herbs growing fresh in my garden! If you have your own herb garden, this is a great way to use your harvest.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lavender, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh anise hyssop, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 whole cloves, crushed
  • 16 oz raw apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. Combine chopped herbs, spices and garlic in a quart size mason jar and cover with the apple cider vinegar.
  2. Allow to infuse for 7-10 days in a sunny location then strain into a clean jar. Store at room temperature.

RECIPE: The Legendary Four Thieves Vinegar

Uses

Natural Cleanser – The herbs used in this recipe posess strong antimicrobial effects and vinegar, in any case, makes an excellent natural cleanser. Fill a spray bottle with the vinegar and use it to clean and sterilize kitchen counters and bathrooms.
Astringent – Dilute some vinegar with water and use as a cleansing agent or astringent for the skin.
Insect Repellant – Fill a spray bottle with 1/4 cup of vinegar and top with filtered water. Spray on skin, clothes, etc. to deter pesky bugs.
Seasoning – Use as a seasoning for braised meats and vegetables or make a vinaigrette dressing for salads.
Immune Booster – Use like Fire Cider and take a teaspoonful several times a day to prevent cold/flu.

RECIPE: The Legendary Four Thieves Vinegar

Comments

  1. Louise Kennedy says

    Can I substitute Oregano for marjoram, I don’t have any anise hyssop what else can I use to replace it. This sounds like a great recipe, I would love to use it. Many thanks